Emerging Tech

U.K. opens its first checkout-free store, but it’s not Amazon Go

uk opens its first checkout free store but not amazon go sainsburys

The U.K. has just opened its first checkout-free store that lets shoppers leave without having to wait in line to pay.

It’s located in central London and operated by Sainsbury’s, one of the nation’s biggest supermarket chains.

But the system is different to the one used by Amazon Go, which tracks customer movement using cameras and sensors. Instead, Sainsbury’s requires shoppers to use its app to scan each item as they make their way around the store. At the end of the visit, the customer pays via Apple Pay or Google Pay before scanning a QR code to finish the shop. Such a system costs less to set up than Amazon Go’s as it has no reliance on sophisticated tracking technology and can be installed at low cost at existing stores.

A number of Sainsbury’s stores have been testing the app-based experience for a while, but they’ve retained the checkouts for those that want to use them. As part of a three-month trial, the central London location has removed all of the checkouts though it does have a help desk for anyone wishing to pay using traditional methods.

Other changes to the store include the removal of alcohol and tobacco products to eliminate time-consuming age-verification processes, which helps to create as frictionless an experience as possible.

According to Sainsbury’s, the store’s items have been tailored specifically for busy customers buying breakfast or lunch and other food to eat on-the-go, including snacks, breakfast pots, freshly baked pastries, sandwiches, and drinks.

“We know our customers value their time and many want to shop as quickly as possible [and] technology is key to that,” Clodagh Moriarty, Sainsbury’s chief digital officer, said in a release. “This is an experiment rather than a new format for us; it hasn’t been done in the U.K. before and we’re really excited to understand how our customers respond to the app experience.”

Moriarty said the company would be listening carefully to customer feedback before deciding whether to roll out the system to more of its stores.

Recent reports suggested Amazon was close to opening its first checkout-free Go store in the U.K., though it’s yet to do so. Seattle-based Amazon currently operates 10 Amazon Go sites across the U.S. — four in its home city, four in Chicago, and two in San Francisco, and there have been reports that it’s planning to open as many as 3,000 stores by 2021.

Amazon Go launched in early 2018 and uses an array of sensors, cameras, and artificial intelligence technology to track what you put in your bag, with your selected items automatically charged to your Amazon account as you exit the store. If you’ve yet to visit a Go store, Digital Trends offers an account of what it’s like following its experience at the first such store to open.

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